COVID-19 outbreak fear

About 33% of Nepal's urban population still do not have access to handwashing with soap and water : UNICEF

Published On: March 18, 2020 07:15 PM NPT By: Kunga Hyolmo

KATHMANDU, March 18: At a time when people are being strongly advised by the international agencies to maintain adequate hand hygiene owing to the coronavirus outbreak, about 33 percent of the urban population or around 3 in 10 people in Nepal still do not have access to handwashing with soap and water, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said today.

In its latest fact sheet, the UNICEF said that only 66 percent of urban populations have access to handwashing with soap and water in Nepal. Globally, only 3 out of 5 people have basic handwashing facilities, the UN agency stated in a press release.

More than half of Nepal's population does not have access to handwashing with soap and water in their homes, the UNICEF stated.

"In Nepal, 54 per cent health care facilities have no access to handwashing facilities at point of care. Availability of disinfectant at outpatient departments of health care facilities is only 59 per cent while availability of water in delivery rooms at health care facilities is 69 per cent," the organization stated in the press release.

Urban populations are particularly at risk of viral respiratory infections due to population density and more frequent public gatherings in crowded spaces like markets, public transport or places of worship. People living in urban poor slums – the worst form of informal settlement – are particularly at risk, it said.

As per the UNICEF fact sheet, 40 percent of the world’s population, or 3 billion people, do not have a handwashing facility with water and soap at home. 

Nearly three-quarters of the people in the least developed countries lack basic handwashing facilities at home. 

47 percent of schools lacked a hand washing facility with water and soap affecting 900 million school-age children. Over one-third of schools worldwide and half of the schools in the least developed countries have no place for children to wash their hands at all.

16 percent of healthcare facilities, or around 1 in 6, had no functional toilets or handwashing facilities at either point of care where patients are treated. 

In Central and South Asia, 22 percent of people in urban areas, or 153 million people, lack access to hand washing. Nearly 50 percent of urban Bangladeshis, for example, or 29million people; and 20 percent of urban Indians, or 91 million, lack basic handwashing facilities at home.

As the coronavirus response takes its toll on the health services in the affected countries, the practice of handwashing with soap is even more important in warding off common respiratory and diarrheal diseases.

 UNICEF, therefore, has suggested the following ways of handwashing:

1) Wet hands with running water

2) Apply enough soap to cover wet hands

3) Scrub all surfaces of the hands – including the back of hands, between fingers and under nails –       for at least 20 seconds.

4) Rinse thoroughly with running water

5) Dry hands with a clean cloth or single-use towel


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